Humboldt Broncos tragedy hits everyone hard

Few events have hit this province as hard as the tragedy that occurred at about 5 pm on Friday, April 6, at the junction of Highways 35 and 335 south of Nipawin.
Fifteen people died and 14 more were injured when a westbound semi collided with the northbound Humboldt Broncos Junior A hockey team bus.
There are no words to describe the heroism and dedication of the emergency personnel from surrounding communities who responded to the scene of the crash. The volunteer firefighters and first responders who do what needs to be done, regardless of the cost, are true heroes.
There were also people in other vehicles who witnessed the fatal crash or who came upon the scene shortly after it happened, who did as much as they could to help. Without a doubt, lives were saved because of their efforts.
And once the victims were transported to hospital, it was through the work of emergency room physicians, nurses and other health professionals that the survivors of the crash are still here with us today.
As word of the collision spread, the magnitude of the tragedy became evident. The national and international media picked up the story and within hours, messages of condolences and support were being received in the small city of Humboldt from the Premier, Prime Minister and heads of state of other countries.
How Humboldt Broncos President Kevin Garinger was somehow able to find the inner strength to face a battery of television cameras in the immediate aftermath of the crash, when information was very difficult to confirm, is a testament to his character and stamina. The same can be said of Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench.
On Sunday evening, April 8, the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt hosted a vigil for the victims and survivors of the crash. Organized by the churches of that community, it was televised nationally. If anyone watching it made it through without shedding a tear, I’d be surprised.
The vigil in Humboldt prompted other communities to follow suit. Impromptu candlelight gatherings were held to pay tribute to the Broncos in communities across the province. The Humboldt arena had been booked the evening of April 8 to host a playoff game between Humboldt and Nipawin. Instead, it hosted a sombre memorial.
That wasn’t the only hockey game that was cancelled or postponed because of the tragedy.
The Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League had a home playoff game lined up against the Regina Capitals on Friday, April 6, the night of the fatal crash.
The first that Clark’s Crossing Gazette reporter Mackenzie Hientz heard of the tragedy was when he pulled up to the rink and saw the Regina bus pulling out of town. Then he noticed a note on the door of the arena saying the game was postponed. He then checked his phone and learned of the collision.
The Chiefs are very close to the Humboldt Broncos. As an excellent story by reporter Emily Kaplan, posted on the ESPN website, noted, the Chiefs loan players to the Broncos and vice-versa. Players on both teams know each other well. They often practice together.
The Chiefs players heard the news of the crash when they were in their dressing room, some half-dressed and others lacing up their skates prior to the game. It hit them like a sledgehammer. If the Chiefs didn’t have a game that night, some of them would have been on that Broncos bus, according to Kaplan’s story.
As more details filtered in that night, the game was postponed, the Regina team packed up their gear and left, and the Delisle team members either left with their friends or parents or drifted silently in groups to nowhere in particular, trying to come to terms with the news.
The game against Regina was postponed to Sunday, and then postponed again until Tuesday, April 10, so that the Chiefs players could attend the vigil for their friends in Humboldt.
Chiefs Coach Eric Ditto told ESPN that the team, down 2-1 in the series, is doing its best to carry on with the series despite the tragedy.
They’re not alone in their grief, but the players face an uphill climb with very heavy hearts.